We left lonely Gore and headed west towards Te Anau, passing through a wonderful little village called Mossburn where we stopped off for a brie and ham croissant for Mill and a chicken and bacon quiche like thing for myself along with the now obligatory pair of medium strength lattes. What a treat. After about 30 minutes after our short stop we finally realised why we came to New Zealand because the landscape and road went from farming pastures and long straight Roman-esque asphalt to white-tipped mountain peaks lassoed by roads which were clinging to any crevice they can gain enough purchase to. We were finally where we wanted to be. It also helped the mood as the current bun had decided to come and say hello for the first time since we’d got to NZ. From now on in, blog followers, expect to see a shit load of beautiful landscape photos. I’d apologise for it, but I’m not in the least bit sorry.
We rocked up to Te Anau, a gorgeous small tourist town on the edge of lake Te Anau. Te Anau is Mauri for ‘A cave with swirling waters’ (or something along those lines anyway), and we had already booked ourselves an afternoon excursion to some glow worms caverns where the swirling water is but before then we had a good number of hours to kill so after checking in with a few of the tourist information centres we decided to do a 12km return walk through the nearby forest. The forest itself was used as Fangorn Forest in Lord of the Rings and one of the rivers that runs through it was filmed for certain parts of the Anduin River from the trilogy.
Knowing this, we were in full Lord of the Rings mode (and have been ever since actually), so we pranced about the forest like hobbits asking any passerby which the quickest route to Isengard was. We didn’t managed to see Golum but I do think I saw a (d)ork behind a tree. See if you can spot it in the pic below.
After around 1.5 hours of walking, picture taking, playing hide and seek, nature gazing and general giddyness the forest opened out onto a beach and well…………just take a look for yourself. Milly very genuinely said that its the nicest view she’s ever seen (not the first time either of us have said that on this trip).
We slowly walked around the deserted shoreline stopping every few yards to gawp at the scenery and of course, take pictures, until we got to Shallow Bay Hut, our intended destination. There are hundereds of walks around New Zealand which will take you days to complete with small huts situated around the tracks – you can hire these out for the night or, if you’re ballsy, just throw a tent down. We would love to do one of these expeditions, but we don’t have the provisions or equipment with us to attempt them. It’s certainly one for the bucket list though. We did a 180 degree turn and power walked back to the van, once again taking in the majestic scenery on our way.
As I mentioned earlier, we had booked onto this tourist attraction which took you from the local port in Te Anau centre, over to some caves where the swirling water pool was and a bunch of glow worms. We excitedly jumped on the good ship glow worm and set sail for the caves, skippered by Captain Joe and his skilled crew.
We disembarked at glow worm HQ and listened with anticipation as one of the guides gave us some inciteful information about glow worms; what they eat, how they eat, what their lifecycle is etc. etc. We were then taken into the damp caves to see the luminous buggers for ourselves.
In all respect, it wasn’t really what we’d expected and was a bit of a let down. Once you’ve seen one glow worm, you’ve seen them all and the guide was a bit of a kill joy, telling everyone to ‘hush’ whenever we got near them and employing a strict no photo policy. They looked a lot like those glow-in-the-dark plastic stars you used to stick on your bedroom ceiling when you were a kid. I’m still a little scepticle as to whether they were in fact those things. The best part about the whole trip was the scenery along lake Te Anau!
After this we headed into Te Anau for some dinner. We had hoped to go to the TripAdvisor famous The Ranch for some steak and chips but it had proved quite popular (with 30 minutes waiting time for a table) so we headed over to the local Italian place, aptly named La Dolce Vita.
During the meal we saved an elderly man from nearly being harpooned by an umbrella – the wind had picked up to gale force 72 and although we had half expected a discount due to such heroic actions alas it wasn’t to be and we walked back to Brucey a great number of dollar lighter.
The following day we were up bright and early (well early for us anyway – 10am) and set on our way to Milford Sound. Milford Sound, along with all the other ‘Sounds’ in the region is a fiord – which are a series of valleys of cliffs. The pictures of it look amazing and the road to it is immensely breathtaking. To escape the numerous tourists we decided to do a tough walk nearby to The Summit – a 1000m mountain which is in the centre of a range of mountains in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. At the top is a funny little nature reserve with a multitude of plants, bushes and trees which treat your eyes with their array of colours. Also ‘up top’ is The Summit view point which should give you an amazing 360 degree view of the neighbouring mountains. Unfortunately as you can see from the pic, the cloud was in and all we could see was grey. On the way back down however, the cloud started to lift and we got some stunning views from about 750 meters. Shame we didn’t get them at the top, but I’m sure we’ll get another chance on the trip, this place is littered with mountains.
After a quick tin of sweet potato and pumpkin soup in the car park up to the Key Summit walk, we returned back to Te Anau via proper scenic road to fill up the tank and grab a couple of steaks (lamb and beer are relatively cheap, approx £2 for an 8oz sirloin) before heading around the mountains to stop off at a large campsite 45 minutes outside of Queenstown. We cooked our steaks – which were some of the best steaks we’ve ever had (thanks mainly to the cooking I thought), and got our heads down for the evening.
We again awoke at a respectable time so that we could begin our attack on Queenstown. Queenstown we had heard and read was sort-of the tourist capital of the island. This is where you can book onto do skydiving, enormous bungies, cavern swings, speed boat rides, cruises over to The Sounds, paragliding, snorkelling… the list goes on.
I’ll stop going on about the scenery now because its getting harder to come up different adjectives to describe it. I may just give it a scale instead; lets say the scale… i don’t know… food. If it’s not the best secenery (say 3 out of 10), then it’s not something you’d chose to eat sober, but after a few beers you probably gobble it down – A kebab sort of a view. Mid range (5/10) can be a Subway/McDonalds and simply drop dead gorgeous (9/10) we’re talking Michelin Star or something.
Anyway….. the road into Queenstown is like Jan Hildage’s chicken and leek pie (I could have said anything she cooks to be honest) – certainly hitting at least an 8 out of 10. And Queenstown when we got there, didn’t disappoint either. It’s a busy place and expect its like that all year round because its pretty much sat in the pocket of the mountains – The Remarkables on one side and another part of the Southern Alps on the other – so the winter will bring skiing tourists just as the summer brings walkers and adrenaline junkies. It has that sort of ski vibe to it a bit too: Nice bars with a slate finish to the walls. Plus there’s a ski lift/sky gondola which runs up the side of the nearest mountain and overlooks the city. A lot of the shops sell surf wear or ski wear and instead of the typical tourism family lounging around the place, it was young guys and girls surfing about.
We found a cute little cafe to have a bite to eat and plan our course for the next few days, then saw what the local market place was saying before heading off to locate our site for the night. The camper stop was ok, pretty simple amentities but close to the centre plus it had wifi which meant we could try and watch some Lord of the Rings. There was a kiwi there who we got speaking to, a former bus driver in his fifties, who was quite pleasant but seems a tad deluded about a few things – none the least about the internet which he told us had lost him $500,000 because of people blogging about him, hence the reason Jim will remain nameless in this post.
We had a fairly quiet one as we had some laundry to do and Lord of the Rings to watch.
Tune in next time to hear about our next day in Queenstown and to see if we get to take in some Claridges esq type views.